This English surname of GRESHAM is a habitation name from a place in county Norfolk so called from the old English 'groes' meaning grass, or pasturage and 'ham' meaning homestead. The name is also spelt GRESH, GRESHE, GRESHLEY and GRESHEM. Surnames derived from placenames are divided into two broad categories; topographic names and habitation names. Topographic names are derived from general descriptive references to someone who lived near a physical feature such as an oak tree, a hill, a stream or a church. Habitation names are derived from pre-existing names denoting towns, villages and farmsteads. Other classes of local names include those derived from the names of rivers, individual houses with signs on them, regions and whole countries. A notable member of this name was Sir Thomas GRESHAM (l5l9-l579) English financier and philanthropist, founder of the Royal Exchange, probably born in London, son of Sir Richard Gresham (c.l485-l549) a Lord Mayor of London (l537). From Cambridge in l543 he passed into the Mercers' Company, and in l55l was employed as 'king's merchant' at Antwerp. In two years he paid off a heavy loan and restored the king's credit. As a Protestant he was dismissed by Queen Mary I, but soon reinstated by Queen Elizabeth who made him ambassador to Netherlands (l559-6l). In l569 on his advice, the state borrowed money from London merchants instead of from foreigners. He made the observation, known as 'Gresham's Law' that of two coins of equal legal exchange value, that of the lower intrinsic value would tend to drive the other out of use. Having in l564 lost his only son, Richard from l566 to l568 he devoted a portion of his great wealth to building an Exchange, in imitation of that of Antwerp; he made provision for founding Gresham College, London and he left money for eight alms-houses. Surnames derived from place names are divided into two broad categories; topographic names and habitation names. Topographic names are derived from general descriptive references to someone who lived near a physical feature such as an oak tree, a hill, a stream or a church.
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